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The present study was undertaken because the previously reported incidence of bacteremia associated with esophageal dilatation seemed high, and did not correlate well with clinical experience. Seventeen adult patients were dilated for benign esophageal strictures with one to three dilators on 41 occasions. Five blood cultures were taken over the 30-minute period after each dilatation. Either routinely sterilized dilators or dilators resterilized just before the procedure were used in a random fashion. On 22 of the occasions that routinely sterilized dilators were used in 17 patients, temperatures, white blood counts, and blood cultures were normal in each instance. Resterilized dilators were used on 19 occasions in 15 subjects, and postdilation temperatures and white blood counts were also normal. Two blood cultures from different patients grew Staphylococcus epidermidis, which were felt to be contaminants. On the basis of this and previous studies, extra precautions do not appear to be necessary for dilatation of routine benign strictures. In patients at risk for endocardidits, or those with cancer or tight strictures, it seems advisable to sterilize dilators just before use, and take extra precautions.